Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Trivial Interests: The Mystical Key to Work-Life Balance

Looking back at my last blog post, one thought comes to mind: Boy was I ever wrong!

I started my summer internship on a tense and stressed note, trying to maintain a heightened level of professionalism and forcing myself to believe that there was no life outside of my career.

Then, it all changed the day the managing partner told me that the life outside of law is what mattered more to my career than focusing nonstop on the law, itself. He told me that I needed to develop, what he called, "trivial interests".

"What are trivial interests?" I asked.

"Trivial interests are those interests or hobbies that have no valuable or useful purpose in life."

As I got to know the partners more, I realized that they were such good lawyers because they had lives outside of the firm. One of the partners enjoyed travelling abroad with his wife, while volunteering with underprivileged kids in Marin County during the school year. Another partner spent every conceivable moment with his teenage sons, even during office hours, where they would be sitting in his office arguing the meaning of God. An associate volunteered with Big Brothers.

And then I came to learn- If we, as attorneys, spend our spare time focusing on law, then we risk becoming terribly one-dimensional. In time, we can burn out much faster and we miss out on the small, trivial interests that life has to offer. It's the law of diminishing returns. The harder we try to be the best, the less likely we will ever be the best because there will always be some new height to reach and a higher bar to cross.

So the lesson I take away from the attorneys at this firm is simple- make time for the trivial interests that bring you joy, because the law will always be there tomorrow.